These are some things I learned or thought was useful/interesting to know when traveling through France:
- Dining out is really expensive (eating in general, is expensive), easy to-go foods are hard to find (aside from sandwiches from bakeries), street food (besides sweet crepes) is nonexistent, it’s difficult to eat out of a supermarket (they don’t really sell anything you can make without having to use a kitchen)… Basically, you lose when it comes to food in France. Baguette (1 euro) is the only affordable thing you’ll find if you’re on a tight budget.
- That being said, unless you are ready to dine out (that will cost you an arm), it’s impossible to explore French cuisine. Your best bet is to hope that you’ll meet someone that would cook.
- I’m just going to put it out there. The rumors are true, most French people do eat very little. Breakfast usually consists of a light pastry or something sweet and most meals are “French-portioned”. This is something that might take some time to get used to, if you are used to big heavy meals (like myself).
- On the upside, French wine is ridiculously cheap and delicious. For 3 euro or less, you can get yourself good quality wine (in supermarkets, of course).
- Be prepared to pay for everything in Paris. All entry fee is expensive. And Parisians working for the tourist venues are horribly rude and unhelpful.
- Most French people consider Paris as its own separate country. Don’t think that you’ve seen France if you’ve never left Paris. People hate hearing that.
- When in Paris, don’t fall for the scams and to the gypsies. Remember that it is everywhere and that pick-pocketers are common. Read about the scam we faced in Paris: http://367daysofloveaffair.tumblr.com/post/106058380168/day-30
- The average English level in France is noticeably lower compared to their neighboring countries such as Germany, Netherlands or Belgium. Don’t assume that you will find someone who can speak English.
- That being said, the French love their language. Even if they know English, a lot of French people don’t like to speak it or admit to knowing any other language other than French. This can get really frustrating at times, so prepare yourself.
- Smoking is banned in restaurants and bars.
- Free public bathrooms exist but not very common. Use toilettes inside businesses.
- Internet cafes and laundromats are not the cheapest. When doing laundry, make sure to buy laundry soap at the vending machine. The machines don’t come with it.
- The Basque people are very proud of their history, culture, food and language. Recognize the difference, some get offended when called French.
- It is cheap to cross over to Spain from southern France (Basque region) via bus/tram. From Bayonne, you can take the ATCRB – counseil general bus line to Hendaye (3 euros), then transfer to Euskotren (1.55 euro) that will take you straight in to northern Spain. The tram will look like this:
Information that will save you money:
- France is notorious for its outrageously expensive trains. Buses aren’t much better nor available for the most part. When it comes to transportation, I have one word: http://www.covoiturage.fr/ We saved hundreds of dollars by utilizing this safe and dependable website. Literally.
- France is generally hitch-hiking friendly, especially in the region of Brittany. So use that thumb!
- Carrefour is the biggest and cheapest supermarket chain in France. Leader Price, Lidl or Intermarché are also good choices.
- Carry your passport with you if you are under 25. Some sightseeing venues will give discount.
Helpful French words to know:
- Fromage = Cheese
- Jambon = Ham
- Poulet = Chicken
- Sortie = Exit
- Combien = Cost
- Marron = Chestnut
- Lardons = Bacon/Pork fat
- Champignon = Mushroom
- Chaud = Hot
- Froid = Cold
- Gauche = Left
- Droite = Right
- Pousser = Push
- Pull = Tirer
- Boeuf = Beef
- Oeuf = Egg
- Poissons = Fish
- Pain = Bread
- Cafe = Coffee
- Biere = Beer
- Sante = Cheers
Written by: Zoe Kim